The 35-point, 13-rebound performance by senior Javon Bess in the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys basketball team's 67-53 win over Eastmoor Academy on Dec. 28 was one of the best Tony Staib remembers seeing in his 12 seasons as coach.
The fact Bess scored more than half of the Lions' points isn't necessarily something Staib wants to see occur often this season.
He probably won't have to with players like sophomore post player Nick Ward emerging.
Ward, who saw sporadic minutes off the bench a year ago but has grown to 6-foot-7, was averaging 13.2 points through nine games while providing a consistent complement to Bess, a Michigan State signee.
"(Bess) got rolling (against Eastmoor) and just scored in every way -- points from the free-throw line, off offensive rebounds," Staib said. "We cannot be the Javon Bess show. We've got to have everybody doing their jobs and doing their roles. We've got to get points inside and Nick's been doing a good job of that. We've got to have other guys on the perimeter score. We're a much better team when we're balanced."
The Lions beat Grove City 79-52 on Jan. 3 to improve to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Pickerington North on Jan. 8. Their loss came Dec. 13 against Newark, 55-53.
In a 60-53 win over Independence on Dec. 21, Ward and Bess each scored 17 points.
The Lions led 32-20 at halftime against Eastmoor, which held Ward to five points.
Ward's season-best point total before the Pickerington North game came Dec. 17 when he scored 21 in a 68-55 win over Reynoldsburg.
"He's just very skilled around the basket," Staib said. "He's got a soft touch and good hands. We're trying to get Nick the ball as much as we can. ... We threw him to the wolves in January last year and I think it's just been a year of maturity for him."
Reed, Hull leading bowling teams
Seniors Erika Reed and Shane Hull have led the girls and boys bowling teams.
The girls team was 2-1 overall, 2-0 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before facing COHSBC-North foe Hilliard Darby on Jan. 6 and COHSBC-North and OCC-Cardinal opponent Westerville South on Jan. 8.
Reed had a team-best 151 game average entering the Darby match, followed by senior Mickayla Moyer (149.8) and junior Samantha Toale (149.3).
"Erika Reed has been doing really well and Mickayla Moyer has also bowled some really good games," coach Kelly Ferguson said. "I look for them to do well in the sectional and district tournaments."
The boys team was 1-3 overall, 1-2 in the COHSBC-North and 0-2 in the OCC-Cardinal before facing Darby and Westerville South.
Hull, who did not compete the last two seasons, was averaging 200.3 before the Darby match. His high game before Jan. 6 came Dec. 7 when he bowled a 247 in the Red & Blue Classic at HP Lanes.
He rolled a 235 in a 2,338-2,227 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Dec. 18.
"The boys bowled their best game ever with a total of 2,227 (against Liberty)," Ferguson said.
Other top boys have included junior Brandon Pierce (186.9 average before Jan. 6), freshmen Jeff Avery (173.5) and Kaelan Celentano (170.3) and junior Alex Kasson (170.0).
"Everybody has been working really hard and getting along great," Ferguson said. "We're having a good season."
Swim teams off to strong starts
The swimming and diving program believes it is ready for its next big test: the Northeast Classic on Saturday, Jan. 11, at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
The Lions are planning to take 10 competitors to the meet, which will feature teams from throughout the state and will be held at the site of the state meet Feb. 19-22.
Gahanna can only hope it has results similar to Dec. 7 in the Ned Reeb Invitational at Ohio State, during which the girls team set three program records.
"The girls team is definitely living up to some of the expectations we set for them," coach Erin Darrah said.
In the Ned Reeb, senior Morgan Belli swam program-bests in the 50-yard freestyle (24.69 seconds) and 100 breaststroke (1:05.19), and the 200 medley relay of Belli, Kirstyn Thomas, Ally Wharton and Regan Nolan swam a program-record 1:52.45.
The 400 free relay of Belli, Nolan, Thomas and Annie Devaney has come close to a program record, while the 200 free relay of Wharton, Devaney, Ashley Twigg and Dominique Vaccani also has performed well, Darrah said.
Belli's freshman brother, Major Belli, has become a key contributor for the boys team.
The team's best relay has been the 400 free, which also includes Jon Chang, Kyle Clark and Josh Vandervort.
"(Major Belli) definitely has made an impact," Darrah said. "It's generally been three seniors and him on relays. They're not ranked like the girls are, but they should definitely be more competitive (than in past years) and can definitely go to district."